Q&A with TV Host and Master Chef David Rocco

We’ve got David Rocco, Canada’s favorite food connoisseur on deck to help make 2012 the year we finally learn how to cook like a pro. Shop the kitchen guru’s picks for BTR home December 19-26. The seal of approval from the kitchen master himself? Sounds de-licious.

Rocco is most notably known as the host of his television show, Food Network’s David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, where he shares his thoughts on the philosophies of cooking healthy Italian food. He is involved in all aspects of production, especially music choice. Musicians from all around the world who are also fans of the show have even contributed their music. Much more than simply a cooking show, the program has become a must-see for foodies.

Rocco is all about giving you the tools you need to make the most appetizing meals for you and your family. If you’ve always wanted to master your own cooking skills, then look no further. Be sure to pick up his books, La Dolce Vita Cookbook and Made in Italy, and stop by his website www.davidrocco.com.

Read the Q&A and start cooking up a storm today.

Q: What are some tips you can give our members who are looking to cook more at home as opposed to going to restaurants?

I always make sure to keep my pantry well-stocked with staple dry ingredients that are versatile enough to use any time of day and that are non-perishable.

A COUPLE OF VARIETIES OF DRIED PASTA: I always have both penne and spaghetti on hand. My life would be very dull without pasta! And besides, can you think of any other dish that can be whipped up with little fuss, and can feed a family of four for a dollar a serving?!

GOOD OLIVE OIL: It’s always about extra virgin in my books. I use olive oil for all my cooking. I generally have two types: one for basic frying and sautéing and the best one I can get for simply drizzling at the last minute to finish dishes just before serving. I call this my “Italian MSG.” It’s my secret ingredient and just elevates a finished dish.

GARLIC: It has a long shelf life and is the base for many dishes and sauces. Lightly browned in a little olive oil and you have a sauce… Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

CANNED PEELED PLUM TOMATOES: Because they’re picked at their peak, this is a decent substitute for fresh ones in a pinch, or when fresh ones are out of season. And, of course, with a little bit of garlic and olive oil, throw in your peeled plum tomatoes and within minutes you have a good basic tomato sauce. Cook up your penne and you’re good to go!

A TIN OF TUNA: It’s so versatile. That Aglio e Olio sauce that I told you about? Well, now add that tin of tuna to the frying pan with the browned garlic and olive oil and you have a spin-off from your Aglio e Olio, which I call Aglio e Olio e Tonno! Now, add some peeled plum tomatoes and let it simmer for five or ten minutes, while your penne is cooking and suddenly you have a new sauce and a completely new pasta dish.

CANNED LEGUMES: It doesn’t matter. Buy what you like. They’re so convenient and inexpensive. They’re packed with protein and they’re good to go in a jiff. I like to give mine a rinse before I use them. In a pan, heat up some olive oil and garlic and throw in your beans and in no time you’re eating! You want to fancy it up a bit? Throw in that tin of plum tomatoes and let that cook for ten minutes. You want to turn this into a soup? Throw in a couple of cups of water, bring it all to a boil, break up some of the pasta, throw it in and in 15 minutes you have Pasta Fagioli.

OR BACK TO THE OPEN CAN: Rinse your raw beans, add in the tuna, some good olive oil, and you’ve got a salad.

Q: Fans of scrumptious Italian cuisine will adore your new cookbook. What kind of kitchenware is needed in order to make these dishes at home?

A: I’m not a very high tech guy. I like to keep things simple, so my recipes are very basic and do not require gadgets. All you need are some good thick cutting boards and good knives – I like Global Knives because they are light, professional, stylish, and look great in a kitchen – a good set of basic pots and pans with a heavy bottom, a mezzaluna, which is great for quickly chopping parsley or onions, and if you’re nervous about handling a knife, it’s simple to use. In fact I have a whole section of my new cookbook Made in Italy where I make pestos using only a mezzaluna.

Q: You often hear people say that there’s no time to prepare a delicious meal after a long day at work. Any tips on creating something fast yet tasty?

A: Again, having your pantry well-stocked to me is essential. A simple tomato sauce using a can of plum tomatoes can be a delicious meal in minutes, or for hearty soups you can even use canned lentils to make a beautiful hearty Tuscan lentil soup in 10-15 minutes.

Q: How has all your travelling affected your recipes? Do you incorporate cuisines from different regions into your dishes?

A: Traveling always affects your perception and opens your mind. This is no different in cooking; the more I travel, the more I eat, the more I get inspired. Within Italy, traveling from region to region, they will often have different spins on a recipe, which I will then take the best of and use in my recipes. Take for example the classic Putanesca, my grandmother made hers with walnut halves in the sauce, and 100 miles away they don’t use walnuts at all. To me this is fun and exciting!

Q: What’s one cooking faux-pas you always see, and how can people avoid it?

A: People tend to over-complicate things in their recipes as opposed to keeping things simple and letting the integrity of each ingredient shine – less is more! The other big thing I find is the overuse of garlic in Italian cooking because it can be a bit of a cliché. Too much garlic will ruin a dish – or worse leave your mouth coated with the garlic flavor after dinner. A good tip is crushing your garlic but keeping it whole while making your dish; it will flavor up the olive oil, do its job, and can then be removed at the very end.

Start shopping David Rocco’s picks today:

Entertain in Style

Framed Pop Art

Believe it or not…It’s plastic!

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